Orthman Manufacturing is a maker of agricultural machines and implements, including the 1tRIPr strip-tillage machine and Tracker implement steering system, as well as a maker of conveyor and materials bulk-handling systems, SoilMover industrial earth-moving equipment, and Inter-Motion machine rebuilding and custom machines and robotics.
Henry Orthman began his career in the depths of the Great Depression, hauling alfalfa and grain from Nebraska to drought-stricken Kansas. In 1938, he purchased 160 acres of Platte River ground north of Lexington, put in an irrigation well, and harvested his first crop of sugar beets. The Orthman Research Farm still occupies that same farmstead.
Henry's ingenuity was evident in those early days, when he mounted one of the original 'Farm Hand' loaders on a reversed truck chassis, using it to handle hay bales. He also recognized the value of Henry Ferguson's original 3-point mount, and modified his equipment from conventional center-mount to the more versatile 3-point system, as well as making modifications to his various tool bars to increase productivity or preserve the soil. His improvements caught on, and he was soon making the same modifications for his neighbors and other area growers.
Ferguson's patents expired in the late 1950s, and while the tractor manufacturers were reluctant to adopt a universal system (in those days, implement purchases were driven by the tractor brand), Henry Orthman seized the opportunity to develop a conversion kit allowing growers to keep their existing implements when they purchased a new tractor.
These conversion kits were the birth of Orthman Manufacturing.
In 1965, Henry and his hired man Pete Araujo reduced the farming operation and began marketing conversion kits to dealers nationwide
At first, the kits were painted to match the machine it would attach to- but Henry quickly realized that to stand out in the marketplace, he would need to develop his own brand.
The Orthman TripSaver was introduced in the late 1960s. Henry saw the benefit of fewer trips across the field, and added a second toolbar to a pull-type cultivator- allowing growers to 'throw in' and 'throw out' in the same pass. Additionally, Henry pioneered the use of hollow structural tubing rather than solid bars. In fact, Orthman is recognized as being the first to use the 5x7 and 7x7 tubing which is still the industry standard today.
In the 1970s, Henry patented the internal folding toolbar. Increased tractor horsepower brought rapid growth in equipment size, and Henry saw the benefit of implements that would fold for transport. Rather than mounting hydraulics externally, Henry developed a method of mounting the cylinder inside the tube, protecting the cylinder and allowing for more room to mount tools.
Also in the 1970s, Henry's son Bill Orthman officially joined the company, overseeing the administrative, sales, accounting, purchasing, and other duties that the growing company needed to develop.
Orthman's innovation continued with the introduction of the disc stabilizer in 1978. Henry took a rigid disc, and added hydraulics and electronics so that it would pivot on command. This system evolved into what is now known as the Tracker, the industry's only ground-engaging implement-steering system. Also in 1978, Orthman developed the widely-known Adjust-A-Rate planter drive that is still used today.
The 1980s brought about Orthman's success in the cultivator market. Henry's vision and usage of various gauge wheels, hitches, row markers, lift-assist wheels and other innovations evolved into hillers and eventually into the well-known Flex-Gang Cultivator.
Also in the 1980s, Orthman introduced their line of grain carts and cotton harvester guidance systems. Orthman also went world-wide, shipping their first export products to Australia.
In the 1990s, Orthman expanded from the western cornbelt into the Mississippi Delta region. Starting withrow crop cultivators, Henry and Bill recognized the strong market for listers in the Delta region. And, this demand led to the development of the stacking toolbar - a folding method that allowed planter boxes and other tools to remain upright during transport. These products were so successful that many Delta growers referred to any implement as simply 'an Orthman,' regardless of it's actual brand name or usage.
The turn of the century saw more growth for Orthman. OEM Agreements with John Deere, Agco, andMonosem speak highly of the quality and innovation that Orthman continues to achieve. Additionally, a succession plan saw then-Sales and Marketing Manager John McCoy assuming ownership of the Company, with Bill maintaining a hands-on leadership role.
Like Henry, John saw the benefit of limiting the number of trips across the field, and, along with Lynn Flaming, began developing a strip-till row unit. First introduced in 2001, the 1tRIPr strip-tillage machineis Orthman's best-selling product of all-time, and is regarded as the leader in strip-tillage market.
John also saw the need to diversify the Company. Orthman acquired the Soilmover company and their line of earth-moving and scraper equipment, plus developed the Orthman Conveying division to manufacture custom materials-handling and conveying equipment. A trucking and logistics division was created to oversee delivery of Orthman's wide variety of products as well as other flatbed and container loads.